Thank goodness I received a copy of the latest version of Out of the Park baseball last week. Here is a game that can satisfy fans of current players and baseball historians who want to stack their managing talents against the immortals.
It was one of the best games around — and I am sure I will hear from my Strat-O-Matic friends who argue their game was better — but I loved the APBA concept.
Now, nearly five decades later, computers — and not tabletops or living room floors — are where baseball lovers can scratch their itch for game simulation.
You can buy the game here. It normally sells for $39.99 but was discounted for what would have been the opening week of the baseball season, coming in at $35.99.
The game was conceived by German programmer Markus Heinsohn, whose first edition of OOTP was released in 1999. He has tweaked it through the years and beginning with the release of OOTP 16 in January 2015, the game has had licenses with Major League Baseball, the players association and Minor League Baseball.
This year’s version is called OOTP 21.
Heinsohn said he began playing baseball in 1991 when he was 14.
“My friends and I founded our own club and played organized baseball, and that's how my obsession with the sport began,” Heinsohn told Vice.com in 2016. “I read everything about it that I could find, studied its rules and its history, and watched as many games on TV as possible.”
During the game, a player can set the game to pitch by pitch, batter by batter, or even click a button to completely simulate a game, finishing it in seconds. Batters have several options — swing away, hit and run, run and hit, take a pitch, while pitchers can hold runners, throw pitchouts, pitch around a hitter or walk them intentionally.
Lineups have little flame or ice icons next to batters who are playing well or poorly.
Drop-down menus allow the manager to make substitutions, get a pitcher warmed up in the bullpen, check transactions around the league and even take a peek at the league standings.
As a general manager/team owner, you can build your own ballpark, tailoring it to modern or classic looks.
I played the batter-by-batter version for about 20 games before switching to simulation — the game can take about 20 minutes to play, and with baseball’s long schedule, I wanted to write something about this game before April rolled around.
Being a baseball history nut and a fan of the old New York Yankees dynasty, I decided to be the manager for the 1927 squad. In real life, the Yankees went 110-44 and won the American League pennant by 19 games over the Philadelphia Athletics. Then, they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four straight games to win the World Series.
I wondered if I could match the managing genius of Miller Huggins, or prepare a lineup that would allow Babe Ruth to hit 60 home runs while Lou Gehrig added 47.
OK, so I wasn’t a genius. But I did pilot the Yankees to a 101-53 record and a World Series victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. The Pirates would finish 73-81 in the National League, 23½ game behind St. Louis
After 40 games, the OOTP Yankees were 21-19, eight games behind the Athletics. At the midpoint of the season, New York was 45-32, and even as late as July 27, the Yankees were 60-40 but trailed Philadelphia by 10½ games.
Then, the Yankees caught fire, going 41-13 the rest of the way and clinching the pennant on Sept. 25.
As in real life, the team lived up to its nickname of Murderers’ Row, with Ruth, Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri driving in at least 123 runs (Gehrig led the team with 149). It became clear that while Ruth was going to lead the league in home runs, he would finish nowhere near the 60 he swatted in 1927. The OOTP Ruth would smack 39, while Gehrig and Lazzeri had 24 apiece.
Interestingly, Gehrig’s .373 average in the simulated game matched his actual average in 1927, while Ruth’s .353 was only slightly lower than his .356 in real life. Interesting note: in the game, Ruth did not top the .300 mark in hitting until July 5 — a span of 75 games.
On the mound, Waite Hoyt was the ace in real life (22-7) and in simulation (24-8). Herb Pennock was 19-8 in real life and 17-8 in simulation, while Wilcy Moore, who was 19-7 with 13 saves during the 1927 season, was 10-3 with seven saves in OOTP.
If there had been a Cy Young Award in 1927, the OOTP winner would have been Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove, who went 25-5 with a 2.65 ERA. In 1927, Grove went 20-13 with a .319 ERA.
The World Series, like the regular season, was not a cakewalk for the 1927 Yankees in OOTP. But after splitting the first four games with the Cardinals, New York won the next two by scores of 14-7 and 10-2 to earn the Series title.
I plan to simulate other memorable seasons, managing the 1961 Yankees, 1969 Mets and even the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays. On the masochistic side, I might even try to see if I could win more games than the abysmal 1962 Mets — or the even more abysmal 1899 Cleveland Spiders. I mean, anyone can win a pennant with the 1927 Yankees. It might take a little more strategy and moxie to improve a loser, even by one place in the standings.
Regardless, Out of the Park baseball is a much-needed diversion during these trying times. The numbers in OOTP are the kind of statistics I want to follow.